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First Team News

Gaffer Left Frustrated After 'Game Of Two Halves'

23 November 2019

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Manager Alex Neil gave an honest assessment of his side's defeat at Pride Park after the hosts took the points with the only goal of the game through Martyn Waghorn.

The gaffer made two changes at half-time which led to a much improved performance in the second half but he was ultimately left frustrated as the Lilywhites were unable to find the equaliser.

Speaking to iFollow PNE, the PNE boss said: "I think it was a game of two halves really. First half to be honest I don’t think we did anything, I thought we were second best and we just didn’t play well, we played Jayden up top, which has served us really well the last three games.

"I thought the service up to him was really poor, I don’t think we picked up enough second balls.

"I thought they were very good to be fair to them, they moved the ball well, caused us problems and got runners in behind and we just didn’t deal with it. To be honest, the best thing that happened was the half-time whistle to get us in at 1-0.

"I thought if it was more than 1-0 we couldn’t have complained. Second half I changed it, brought Gally [Paul Gallagher] on, brought Billy [Bodin] on, opened the pitch up more and used the ball better. Having said that, we didn’t create a massive amount of chances.

"We probably have two chances in the first half, for how poor we played, and two chances in the second half. I think Jayden has a strike in the first half that whistled past the post, I was right behind it, and Patrick has a good chance in the first half when the ball dropped to him.

Tom Barkhuizen did have the ball in the back on the net just before the hour mark but it was ruled out for offside, on that, the gaffer continued: "Tommy B, I’ve looked at his [disallowed] goal, it’s so difficult to say whether it was offside or not. I think it’s a brave call from the linesman and I think sometimes you get them and sometimes you don’t, Jordan Storey had a really good chance at the death as well.

"I think the problem we’ve got is particularly when you go away from home, if you give the opponents the start that we did, I think it becomes very difficult from that stage."

PNE looked to force the issue further later in the second half with David Nugent set to come on against his former club, but an injury to Ben Davies forced the manager's hand and Jordan Storey was to be the final change for North End.

"It was frustrating because Davo was putting up with his ankle and I wanted to put Nuge on, I was probably going to take DJ off because he’s only trained a few days. But I was restricted, I couldn’t do that because I had to bring another centre back on."

The manager made two changes from the side that beat Huddersfield Town before the international break, Ben Pearson returned from suspension and Daniel Johnson made his return from injury, with Ryan Ledson and Paul Gallagher the players to make way. Alex discussed those changes after the game but felt it was a lack of competitiveness from his side in the first half that was a major factor in the defeat.

"I was caught in between today in terms of how to approach the game. It’s easy now in hindsight to say, ‘We should have played this way’, but the one thing I will say is that Jayden’s been in the team on merit and performed very well but I didn’t think we played to his strengths today; we didn’t get any quality balls up to him. I thought even our kicks didn’t really get to him and it was just really poor.

"Second half, I just felt we needed to get our foot on the ball and dictate the tempo of the game really, because first half they did that and that was becoming a real problem for us. We just added a few technicians to the team, it made a big difference, but I still don’t think we created enough chances where you think to yourself, ‘How did we not get something out of that game?’

"We’re disappointed and frustrated and if I’m being honest, I’m frustrated with myself as much as anything, certainly looking at the first half of the game.

"The one thing I will say, and I said to the players afterwards, I regularly and quite happily take the blame if I think that I’ve made mistakes, but their level of commitment and competitiveness in the first half, regardless of how you play, wasn’t going to win any match – it doesn’t matter how you play, where you play, what formation you play – competing like that, you’re going to lose. That was definitely disappointing."

The gaffer also had a final word for the fans, with 2,435 making the trip: "That is frustrating because they came in good numbers, they came in fine voice. We all know that the first half was unacceptable, we didn’t do anywhere near well enough, but I thought second half, to be fair to the lads, they reacted and they tried to force the issue and go and get something from the game."

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